Lord, will only a few people be saved?
“Lord, will only a few be saved?” Perhaps the first thing that might strike the modern hearer of these words is “saved.” Saved? Saved from what? Christianity makes no sense if we believe that there is really nothing wrong with the human condition or, worse yet, that with a little effort and good will we can solve humanity’s problems on our own. The proclamation of the gospel, recall, begins with an urgent invitation to repentance. In other words, the gospel first presents itself as a remedy for sin. Make no mistake about it: the natural state of the world is one of alienation from God. And human beings stand in a position of absolute helplessness to bridge the divide. Thus, “saved.” Saved from what? From sin, from the seemingly endless cycle of dysfunction of which man is both a victim and a perpetrator. And from eternal death, the only inheritance that await those trapped in that cycle. Now back to the original question: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” The next stumbling block might be the word “few.” It seems very exclusionary. Shouldn’t what applies to some apply to everyone? Isn’t God fair? Doesn’t God love everybody? Of course, God loves everyone. But not everyone loves God. And heaven is not a place for everyone, but for those who have become children of God, that is, people who through divine grace have grown in this life to love God more than their sin; who, through Jesus the only divine Son, have become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. So when he is asked, “Will only a few be saved,” Jesus doesn’t simply say “yes,” but he says that his path is not easy, following him will be difficult and if we’re not careful we can easily get lost. In fact, we have admit, says Jesus, that many will be lost. We’re so unaccustomed to hearing Jesus speak this way that it is understandably arresting. But if faith in our world today seems so irrelevant, and if believers seem so complacent, it could be because we have failed to remember the urgency of these two small words, “saved,” and “few.” The Church used to preach and teach often about the dangers of presumption. We never hear about it anymore, which is unfortunate. Even a child is taught from a young age not to presume too much. Rather than presume our innocence, we need to confront our attachment to sin. Rather than presume God’s understanding patience, we should be willing to humbly pray for his mercy. Rather than presume that we can find our own way to God, we should remain in the care of the Church, and receive with frequency and devotion the sacraments that save. Rather than presume admittance to heaven, we should live in such a way that with the help of God’s grace, we are made more and more deserving of it.